A new Women’s Media Center report spotlights 20 history-making women of color news executives, their landmark achievements and workplace inclusion strategies at a time when diversity in the journalism industry faces resistance.
WMC’s “Women of Color in U.S. News Leadership 2023” focuses on women in legacy print and broadcast news as well as the fast-growing digital news sphere and details their approaches for creating more inclusive newsrooms, expanding definitions of news, attracting new audiences, and, consequently, increasing the bottom line.
Many of these women leaders have been promoted since 2020, during a period when their news organizations covered the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements, which amplified, among other issues, longstanding disparities in pay, promotions and other areas of U.S. workplaces, including the news media.
“These dynamic women now occupy a seat at the table in an industry long dominated by White men,” says Women’s Media Center President and CEO Julie Burton. “Even as some of them have faced their own battles with racism, sexism and other barriers, they’ve persevered. We are immensely proud and honored to celebrate their achievements.”
While these women leaders are making big strides in the industry, collectively, their numbers fall short of parity. There are no comprehensive data on the race and gender of news executives across all platforms. The latest count from the News Leaders Association (NLA) shows that in 2019 roughly 9% of newsroom leaders in traditional print and online newsrooms were women of color. Gender nonbinary people were among the top three leaders at 2.3% of newsrooms. The Radio Television Digital News Association/Newhouse School at Syracuse University Survey found that a record-high of 40.5% of local TV stations had news directors who were women and 17.5% had news directors who were people of color.
Meanwhile, women represent more than 51% of the U.S. population and people of color 40%, a reality cited in this latest WMC report, building on WMC’s 2018 report, “The Status of Women of Color in the U.S. News Media.”
Andrea Parquet-Taylor, CBS News’ vice president of CW and its independent stations news director, is clear about one of her executive goals: “Our job is to open the window as wide as we can.”
She and other leaders profiled in this report say they are determined to ensure that the voices, experiences and stories of everyone — especially women and people of color, but also those marginalized by gender, region, income, disability and other key markers — are expansively and fully included in news coverage.
“It’s critical to lead in a way that leverages the opportunity and lived experience of everyone in the room while we’re going after accuracy, authenticity, and the truth,” says Catherine Kim, senior vice president of NBC News’ editorial division.
Adds Sara Kehaulani Goo, Axios’ editor-in-chief: “It’s my duty to not only give that back but to model something different. It’s my duty to create some different expectations, where diverse representation is the norm, not the exception.”
From inside their C-suite offices and as they circulate throughout their news organizations, these influential women of color executives and role models say they strive, also, to build a more diverse pipeline of journalists. They are embracing their newfound power to transform news organizations.
Daisy Veerasingham, AP’s president and CEO — the first woman and person of color to head the 180-year-old global news wire — has spent much of her career as the only woman or person of color in the room. “I started to understand how being the only actually can be a change agent,” she says.
Erika Aguilar, executive producer of NPR’s flagship Morning Edition, says her presence is appreciated in the newsroom. “Some young Latinas at NPR have said to me, ‘It’s so great to have you, even if you’re not my direct boss. It’s cool. Maybe I can do what you do someday.’”
“The news media can’t be fair, accurate or viable if they are not inclusive,” says WMC co-founder Gloria Steinem. “We are indebted to these amazing women, and to the fortitude and talent necessary to attain their high-powered jobs. They have demonstrated excellence and determination despite the inherent racism and sexism most encounter on their career journeys.”
Janet Dewart Bell, WMC board chair, lauded the achievements of these women of color news executives, while noting that the industry must do more to attain parity.
“These women of color leaders show us what can be if we as a nation invest in real, impactful change,” she said. “The Women's Media Center aggressively advocates for diverse women's voices up and down the pipeline. Remedies include diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Having women of color in decision-making positions is critical in reaching the goals of a robust, informed, fair and free press.”
“If U.S. news corporations want to survive in an age where the volume of information sources is increasing, then they need leaders who can help expand audiences, and teams that know those audiences,” says Erica González Martínez, WMC board vice chair. “The Women’s Media Center will continue to exert public pressure on U.S. news corporations to recruit, promote and support women of color executive leadership as a standard.”
The report consists of interviews with: Andrea Parquet-Taylor, CBS News’ vice president of CW and its independent stations news director; Janelle Rodriguez, executive vice president of NBC News and head of its NBC News Now online streaming newscast; Karen Lincoln Michel, president and CEO of IndiJ Public Media and president, ICT (formerly Indian Country Today); Leona Allen Ford, deputy publisher and chief talent and diversity officer, DallasNews Corp.; Swati Sharma, publisher, editor-in-chief, Vox; Michel Martin, host, Morning Edition, NPR’s news magazine; Danielle Belton, editor-in-chief, HuffPost; Daisy Veerasingham, AP’s president and CEO; Kristen Go, editor, CalMatters; Charo Henríquez, editor, newsroom development and support, The New York Times; Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, editor, ICT; Amanda Zamora, co-founder and publisher, The 19th; Yvette Cabrera, senior reporter, Center for Public Integrity and president, National Association of Hispanic Journalists; Emma Carrasco, NBC News Group Corporate Affairs senior vice president; Michelle Genece Patterson, senior producer, CNN; Catherine Kim, senior vice president of NBC News’ editorial division; Sara Kehaulani Goo, editor-in-chief, Axios; S. Mitra Kalita, co-founder/CEO of URL Media; Yolanda Lopez, former acting director, Voice of America; and Erika Aguilar, executive producer, Morning Edition.
About the Women's Media Center:
The Women’s Media Center is an inclusive and feminist organization that works to raise the visibility, viability and decision-making power of women and girls in media by ensuring that their stories get told and their voices are heard. We do this by researching and monitoring media; creating and modeling original online and on-air content; training women to be effective in media; and promoting women experts in all fields.
For more information, contact WMC Communications Director Cristal Williams Chancellor at email@example.com or 202-270-8539.
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